Most people only think about cooling when they enjoy an ice cream on a hot afternoon or sit in air-conditioned comfort.
But we depend upon air conditioning and refrigeration every day for preserving the food in our diets, health care, Internet and cellular access, and through applications which enable manufacturing of products we use daily. These under-appreciated technologies have a significant impact on the environment, first through direct emissions related to the eventual refrigerant leakages of refrigerants characterized by global warming potential and, second, indirectly through the emissions generated by nonrenewable energy consumption generated in power plants where fossil fuels are still primarily used. As the use of cooling expands because of a global population increase, global economic development, and the explosion of the cooled spaces needed for artificial intelligence, it is essential that we control cooling’s degree of environmental impact. New technologies provide us with the opportunity.
Industry has long struggled with how to make the public aware of all the benefits that cooling delivers to modern day life; how to make the public knowledgeable that their cooling purchasing decisions impact the environment; and how to encourage advocacy for governmental action that supports advanced cooling technologies which do not harm the ozone layer while having lower global warming potential. Public awareness of advanced technology solutions can help to transform the market to increase availability of more energy efficient and less environmentally harmful products. Achieving successful public outreach, however, has been elusive for the cooling industry.
LAUNCH OF A GLOBAL CAMPAIGN: COOLING KEEPS FOOD FRESH
To change this dynamic, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) OzonAction and Global Food Cold Chain Council (GFCCC) have partnered with Chefs4thePlanet to give leading chefs a public platform to describe the benefits of cooling and how it is essential for our health and for the well-being of human life on the planet. The outcome is Cooling Keeps Food Fresh (www.coolingfood.com), a global campaign that launched on World Refrigeration Day, June 26, the birthdate of Scottish scientist William Thomson. Known as Lord Kelvin, Thomson was the formulator of the first and second laws of thermodynamics. Twenty-six technical and industry associations and intergovernmental agencies support the campaign.
Chefs4thePlanet is a network of chefs, producers, influencers and all those who love food and who care for our planet and our health. It is dedicated to climate action, the protection of biodiversity and the environment, and the fight against food waste. The organization’s activities build on chefs’ ability to be agents for change, integrating the values of sustainable gastronomy into their menus by developing creative techniques and recipes as well as different means of production.
The campaign joins Chefs4thePlanet with the public and private sectors through World Refrigeration Day which develops public platforms that raise awareness of cooling’s benefits and inspires development and adoption of innovative and sustainable cooling solutions by the public, governments, industry, and practitioners for the wellbeing of future generations. World Refrigeration Day is not country, group, nor organization specific, and World Refrigeration Day is technology neutral.
COOLING AS A SOLUTION TO GLOBAL CHALLENGES
Cooling – air conditioning and refrigeration – is at the nexus of two of the great challenges facing humanity: Feeding a growing population and battling climate change. No other single technology has as great an impact on modern life.
“Cold storage is essential because it allows me to keep my ingredients longer and above all… avoid the risk of food poisoning! Increased temperatures cause and accelerate microbial growth and reduce product shelf life. I maintain my ingredient quality thanks to the cold.”Denny Imbroisi, Chef at IDA, Italian Cuisine with Transalpine Roots and Mediterranean Generosity
After steadily declining for a decade, world hunger is on the rise, affecting nearly 10% of people globally. The UN’s State of Food Security and Nutrition report for July 2022 shows the world is moving backwards in efforts to eliminate hunger and malnutrition. From 2019 to 2022, the number of undernourished people grew by as many as 150 million, a crisis driven largely by conflict, climate change, and the COVID-19 pandemic. In all, the number of people affected by hunger globally rose to as many as 828 million in 2021.1
One solution to the food security challenge is wider application of the cold chain. Of course, the varied diets people enjoy every day in developed countries depend on refrigeration, but in developing countries reducing food spoilage through increased use of cooled storage and transport and refrigeration in retail and domestic applications can be a matter of life or death, enabling millions of more people to be fed and providing the undernourished with nutritious diets. But environmental impacts need to be considered.
“To fight food waste, we work with products close to their expiry date – therefore impossible to sell – but that are still perfectly healthy. This requires quick preparation and careful collection. Mastering cold extends the life of certain ingredients and lets us offer fresh and healthy meals that we deliver to charities that fight food insecurity and the economic and ecological impacts that food waste generates. This also allows us to offer local and seasonal products throughout the year on our restaurant’s menu without importing products from the other side of the world.”Elliott Van de Velde, Chef at Entropy Restaurant, Belgian Inspired Cuisine
As with air conditioning, forward-thinking energy use policies and technology choices based on sustainability considerations are required because of cooling’s potential impact on the environment.
The trend is unescapable. The world will have more cooling. The increasing frequency of heat waves along with an expanding middle class in developing countries are driving the growing use of air conditioners in homes and offices around the world. According to the International Energy Agency,global energy demand from air conditioners is expected to triple by 2050, requiring new electricity capacity the equivalent to the combined electricity capacity of the United States, the European Union and Japan today. The global stock of air conditioners in buildings is predicted to grow to 5.6 billion by 2050, up from 1.6 billion in 2018 – which amounts to 10 new ACs sold every second for the next 30 years. While in countries such as the United States and Japan, more than 90% of households have air conditioning, just 8% of the 2.8 billion people living in the hottest parts of the world have air conditioning in their homes. 2
We depend upon cooling. And we depend upon the public’s awareness of sustainable cooling technology availability to generate market transformation.
THE INFLUENCE OF TECHNOLOGY
Technology has profoundly shaped society, the economy and the environment. While technology has caused many environmental and social concerns, it is also key to addressing environmental degradation, climate change, food scarcity, waste management, and other pressing global challenges.How fast human society meets these and other challenges depends in large part on the pace and scale at which good technology displaces inferior technology in different global contexts.The pace and scale are dependent upon public awareness and support. The technology that gives us an ice cream cone and indoor comfort during the summer also enables the Internet and telecommunications industry’s data centers, quick freezing equipment for frozen food, refrigerated transportation networks, refrigerated display cabinets, and our home fridges.3
“Cold is important to maintain the temperature of ingredients and give the best products to our customers. The cold declines in several temperatures. Fish require a temperature between 0 and -2 C, meat between 0 and +4 C. And when you want to have fun and make pastries, we need a cooling cell with ingredients at -40 degrees, for example, for nitrogen with which I make minute sorbets.”Alan Geaam, One Star Michelin Chef at Alan Geaam, Combining France’s rich culinary heritage with a touch of Lebanon
THE COOL CHEFS
Chefs connect with the public in a way which engineers and scientists seldom do.
Cooling technology is hidden inside a box or within the walls of a building. Food is at the center of life’s different occasions as well as having a role in our daily routines. It provides the nourishment we require for survival, and it connects us to each other, to our past, to our culture, and to the world. We follow our distinct traditions around food, and we explore through food. Web searches for cooking trends, such as recipes, have doubled over the last two years.4 Four out of five Americans watch television shows on cooking with 15 percent watching very often.5
“The cold warms me up. The emotion provided by an ice cream abandoning itself in melting and fresh texture on the tip of the tongue. I like this cold feeling. To quote well-known French writer Victor Hugo, I would say that the cold is, like the form, the bottom that rises to the surface. The cold warms my heart and soul up!”Bruno Verjus, Two stars Michelin Chef at Restaurant Table, French Loire Inspired Cuisine
At a time when each day we increasingly exceed our planetary boundaries, and our intensive agriculture and food practices produce about one third of global greenhouse emissions, feeding ten billion people in 2050 requires the systemic transformation of our food system. Chefs as role models and influencers have a key role to play. Alternative proteins, seasonal, local and plant-based ingredients as well as fighting food waste are becoming more and more important in gastronomy, and cooling will continue to be essential as an ingredient in this transformation.
COOLING KEEPS FOOD SAFE
The Cooling Keeps Food Fresh campaign is built around four key messages.
One is Cooling Keeps Food Safe. The objective is to educate the public about how to efficiently and correctly use cooling technology.
“Cold is essential in the kitchen to keep food fresh, make it last longer and avoid food waste. Cold contributes to food safety.”Dina Nikolaou, Chef at Evi Evane, Greek Inspired Cuisine
Cooling slows bacteria growth. Keep the fridge and freezer in a safe temperature range. Bacteria grow most rapidly between 4.4 and 60°C, some doubling in as little as 20 minutes.
COOLING PROMOTES NUTRITIOUS DIETS BY PROLONGING SHELF-LIFE
The second message is that cooling supports varied, nutritious diets. In some countries, access to the cold chain can be the difference between health and malnutrition.
“What causes malnutrition is lack of accessibility. The cold chain is a vital element for food safety. Each stage is intertwined with another, from collection to storage, packaging, warehousing, transport to point of sale, and storage at point of consumption. The cold chain protects against the proliferation of bacteria.”Mercedes Ahumada, Chef of Traditional Mexican Cuisine
A one-hour cooling delay after picking reduces shelf life of fresh produce by one day or more. Quick freezing fruits and vegetables enables them to picked at peak ripeness. Freezing processes do not require adding chemical preservatives, and frozen seafood retains peak flavor and nutritional value.
“Morocco is hot. We depend on cooling to preserve food and food preparations such as meats, drinks and sometimes vegetables. My recipe for Tiramisu, Honey and Orange Flowers and “Cornes de Gazelle’ (a Moroccan biscuit) needs hours of cooling”Mohammed Baya, Chef at Restaurant La Table Clandestine, Belgian-Moroccan Inspired Cuisine
Of all food produced annually, it is estimated that 46% should be refrigerated. Only 21% actually is, and 13% of all food produced spoils or is otherwise lost. Whereas in developed countries 60% of food that should be refrigerated is, in developing countries, that figure drops to 20%. It is estimated that 54% of food that should be refrigerated is lost and never consumed in developing countries. On a global scale, 950 million people could be fed annually from food loss due to lack of refrigeration.6
COOLING ENERGY-EFFICIENTLY SAVES MONEY
Regular maintenance of cooling equipment should be carried out by certified technicians to eliminate refrigerants emissions and to keep the unit performing at a high level.
“Cooling extends the shelf life of foods without altering taste, appearance nor nutrient value. Many families do not have time to cook every day. This is why I defend the practice of Batch Cooking. We cook several dishes at once for the whole week. With this technique, we eat homemade food every night. Cold is our ally provided you know how to use it. Some preparations should be kept high in the fridge, others lower, and yet others in the freezer. Some will be better in the fridge’s airtight box and others with damp paper. But all need cold. Cold is life!”Justine Piluso, Chef at justinepiluso.com, Participant of Top Chef France 2020, French Cuisine Inspired by the Mediterranean Sea
An energy saving checklist for refrigerators that every consumer should follow includes matching size with family needs; looking for an energy use label when purchasing a fridge; keeping coils free of dust; cleaning and checking the door gasket; changing filters in ice makers and water dispensers; closing the door as quickly as possible after opening it; keeping the unit level; leaving at least 2.5 cm (1 in.) around the unit for airflow; and placing it away from heating sources.
COOLING CHOICES HELP PROTECT THE ENVIRONMENT
The fourth message concerns environmental protection. To have minimal impact on climate and the environment, match the appropriate cooling equipment to the application and select equipment that use ozone and climate-friendly refrigerants and have high energy efficiency ratings.
“With the fridge, we have food that can be kept longer with the same freshness. We can transport food from one place to another without risk of deterioration. In the past ice cubes were used to keep fish fresh. Nowadays, there is good technology to keep food fresher with less impact on the environment.”Gregory Cohen, Chef of French Inspired Cuisine
Sustainable cooling reduces one of the largest contributors to climate change. Greenhouse gas emissions from food production amount to 26% of greenhouse gas emissions from all sources. Of that, 24% is from uneaten food: 63% of which is loss in the supply chain and 37% is consumer waste.7 Eliminating food waste can be an important contributor to climate stability.
“Thanks to our fridges and our cooling systems, we have fresh products everyday like our fish and vegetables. Cooling takes good care of our products.”Henrik Andersson, Chef at Le Fumoir, Swedish Inspired Cuisine
If you are a cold chain professional:
- Consider most efficient and lower-GWP technologies when purchasing or replacing equipment or components.
- Ensure that operation and servicing of equipment is professionally conducted and logged.
- Monitor temperatures of storage, transport, and retail equipment.
COOLING KEEPS FOOD FRESH
Cooling’s significance is sometimes taken for granted by governments, end-users, and the public. It makes many important contributions to our society, with direct connections to lives, livelihoods, health, nutrition and environmental protection. Besides its main purpose of keeping food fresh and safe to eat, the refrigerator can also be an agent of change to help solve environmental challenges such as preserving Earth’s ozone layer, fighting climate change, and promoting energy efficiency. The refrigerator-freezer in your house or favorite restaurant, the cooling equipment in your food stores and in distribution warehouses, and refrigerated ships, trucks, and delivery vehicles have a huge impact far beyond the kitchen.
“Cooling, whether refrigerated or frozen, allows us to maintain the optimum quality of products from harvest to final use in the kitchen.”Laurent Pichaureaux, Chef at Esens’ALL, French Inspired Cuisine
Industry can facilitate the reduction of food loss and waste and its negative environmental impact by promoting greater access to food preservation technology and promoting the development and utilization of cost-effective, energy- efficient equipment with reduced environmental impact. A sustainable cold food cold chain will be an economic, social and environmental net-positive.
BECOMING INVOLVED AT COOLINGFOOD.COM
The Cooling Keeps Food Fresh Campaign invites the engagement of the cooling industry, food producers, food retailers, and other groups and individuals that support sustainable cooling.
The chefs’ cool recipes that rely on the refrigerator for preparation and on refrigerated ingredients are posted at www.coolingfood.com, where they also deliver cooling messages in video clips. In addition, a campaign brochure with facts and figures about cooling is available for download in multiple languages.
If you are a professional chef or want to engage a chef, the website has a “Get Engaged” section where chefs can join the campaign and submit recipes.
Bon appétit to apply sustainable technology so Cooling Keeps Food Fresh.
W. Stephen Comstock
1 Action Against Hunger, World Hunger: Key Facts and Statistics 2022, https://www.actionagainsthunger.org/world-hunger-facts-statistics.
2 International Energy Agency, The Future of Cooling, 2018.
3 United Nations Environment Program, Technology, https://www.unep.org/explore-topics/technology/about-technology.
4 Kitchen Infinity, March, 2022, https://kitcheninfinity.com/cooking-statistics/
5 Harris Poll, August, 2020, https://www.marketingcharts.com/television-13719
6 6th Informatory Note on Refrigeration and Food, International Institute of Refrigeration. Compiled from 2013 UN FAO data.
7 Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), State of Food Security and Nutrition Report, July 2022.